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45
 
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

7 February 2011

Useful things

2nd February 2011

Today’s post is an equipment update. We promised to do these, as every other travel blog we’ve read tells readers what they decided to pack, but not how those items turned out in practise. There’s torrential rain outside, and today was largely spent with last-minute tasks like printing out photos for grandma to keep, and with driving around and around Denpasar in circles (Indonesian even has a word for this: muter-muter) looking for a pharmacist owned by Maureen’s childhood friend whose location grandma couldn’t quite remember!

So, by now everything we packed has been used except (thankfully) most of the first aid supplies. But amongst the items in our miscellaneous category some have proved more “must have” than others. Here’s a quick run-down of things we couldn’t be without.

Our TravelTap water filter is brilliant. We’ve been able to drink hotel tap water in Madagascar, Nepal, Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia without fear (touch wood!) of ailments. It has saved us a load of money (especially on trek in Nepal), a bunch of inconvenience popping out to buy water, and of course we’ve kept hundreds of plastic bottles out of landfill.

Head torches. Vital equipment for night-spotting lemurs in the Madagascan rainforest, but also for getting back to our lodgings after dark in Tibet and Kathmandu – streetlights either absent or not working, and pavements uneven or strewn with unwelcome detritus. And when the lights go out for several hours in your hotel, it’s good to have both hands free with a torch on your brow.

The elastic washing line is a must-have. There is always somewhere to stretch it in any room, it requires no pegs, and without it there’s no way we’d be able to dry clothes quick enough after washing. Star purchase.

My new Leatherman tool (present from Andrew, thanks bud) has been handy. Knife, screwdriver, scissors and saw have all had use, but the best gadget on it has been the tin/bottle opener. Based on experience I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance that any self-catering place will either have no tin opener or a broken one.

Airtight food container. So far this has held: half a tin of chakalaka, half a tin of sardines, one third of a spanish omlette, and a portion of chilli con carne. When not bearing food, all our medicines are stuffed inside so it isn’t wasted space in the rucksack. Definite must-have.

Duct tape. It’s true, this stuff ends up coming in handy when you wouldn’t expect it. First examples that come to mind are: taping up a cardboard box of stuff to post back home; taping an electric plug into a socket which was otherwise just falling out.

The small bottle of hand sanitiser is now half-finished. There won’t always be a sink where you have something to eat, and sometimes you will get yucky hands when there’s no water around to wash them. I’ve got nothing to base this on, but my belief is that holiday bugs are much more often down to unwashed hands than to badly prepared food.

And those that haven’t seen use?

Trek towels. We brought one each, but everywhere we’ve stayed has supplied towels with the room. We have been swimming and snorkelling, but found a sarong much more useful and comfortable for drying off afterwards – so we’ve sent one trek towel home and will probably do the same with the other.

I added my fire lighting steel to our inventory at the last minute. And for the record it has been used once, to light a gas stove in a South African self-catering chalet that didn’t have any matches. But since we’re not planning on buying a tent and disappearing into the Australian outback, I doubt it will see another use. Besides, I’ve had to buy a cheap cigarette lighter to light mosquito coils.

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